Twins of different race

The day parents find out they are having a child, it will go down in history as one of the greatest moments of their lives. The day they find out they are having twins will be the scariest day of their lives, but also the greatest.

Having twins, or more, is definitely something huge. That is two crying babies, two dirty diapers, two mouths to feed. Sometimes all at once. It can be a lot to think about.

The moment they are born, is another for the record book of greatest days.

What happens though, when those babies are born different? When one hears they are expecting twins, they expect them to come out looking like spitting images of one another, or at least close.

For mixed raced families though, there are occasions where twins can come out with totally different complexions. There is nothing wrong with them, they are perfectly healthy. Mom did nothing wrong, and neither did dad. There are a few reasons behind this rare occurrence such as genes, environment, and even changes that may occur while in the womb.

Either way, they are beautiful and unique.

21 Kalani & Jalani

A set of twins named Kalani and Jalani Dean were born in Quincy, Illinois to parents Whitney Meyer and Tomas Dean.

According to, the parents of the twins were of different race: the mother, Whitney Meyer, was white, while the father, Tomas Dean, was black.

Kalani takes after her mother with her light skin and blue eyes, while Jalani takes after her father with a darker complexion and brown eyes. Though both girls have different skin colors, there are definitely some similarities to them. Their skin might be different, but one could tell that they are defiantly twins by looking at them.

20 Amelia & Jasmine

Amelia and Jasmine are identical twins born over in the UK. They are not just any normal twins. These two darling little girls made history with their birth.

According to, doctors were baffled when Libby Appleby gave birth to her twin girls. See, Libby is white, while her husband, Tafadzwa, is black and when their twins were born, they were born with different skin colors.

They are the first set of black and white twins to be born in the UK.

Amelia was born with dark skin, black hair, and brown eyes, while her sister Jasmine was born with fair skin, blue eyes, and mousy curls. Both girls are identical to each other in looks though.

What makes it even more weird is that Doctors told Libby while she was still pregnant with the girls that they would be so identical that they would have to mark the girls with ink to tell them apart.

Guess they were wrong.

19 Lucy & Maria

When Donna Aylmer first found out she was going to have twin girls, she cried with joy. It was the best news she could have heard.

She was stunned though after she gave birth to them. She knew her fraternal twin girls would not look identical, but this was beyond what she expected.

According to, one of the girls, whom Donna named Lucy, was born with red hair, blue eyes, paled skin and freckles galore, while her sister, whom Donna named Maria, was born with brown skin, brown eyes, and dark curly hair.

From the beginning it was apparent the girls looked nothing alike and surprised everyone who saw them. Come to find out there was a simple scientific reason behind it. See, Donna’s ethnic background is half Jamaican, half British, while her husband’s background is fully British.

Sadly, for the girls, their difference in skin colors led to bullying and a tough upbringing, especially for Lucy. People in school thought she was adopted and began calling her names.

18 Brayden & Cameron

Daunte and Jessica Norman are the loving parents of fraternal twin boys that were born biracial, and they couldn’t be happier.

When the babies were born, their mom wrote Fox6 News to tell her story.

According to, the boys have a lot in common. For example: they both love to play on the swing set and they even love football. Their dad told Fox6 News that they can even tell which teams the boys love because of how they root when a game is on.

The boy’s mom and dad knew that they would not look exactly alike, but when they were born, they had no idea that they would look so different.

Jessica told Fox6 News in an interview: “We always said, ‘imagine if one does come out really dark, and one does come out light,’ and it really did!

Her husband added: “It kind of blew my mind, but at the same time, it was unique. We aren’t going to have a problem telling these babies apart. No red and blue sock for us! We knew exactly who is who from the get go,” Daunte Norman said. But when the family is out and about, it’s not always smooth sailing. “Sometimes people stare too much.”

17 Xavier & Jayden

In the picture, these two little boys look like best friends, and they are, but they are twins too. Their names are Jayden and Xavier Boughey and they are from Auckland in New Zealand.

According to, Jayden is the one with a darker complexion, while Xavier has a lighter complexion. Jayden takes after his mother, who is dark skin and comes from a family that is Samoan, and Xavier takes after his father who is of white complexion and has fair colored hair.

That’s the not only thing different about these two twin boys though, they also have different birthdays. Jayden made his grand entrance into the world on November 6, while Xavier entered the world after midnight on November 7.

Despite their differences in skin color, hair and eyes, these two little boys look a lot alike in their facial features.

16 Millie & Marcia

Amanda Wanklin and Michael Biggs are a biracial couple that fell in love and didn’t give a second thought to the challenges they may face, all they cared about was being together.

According to, the couple settled down out in Birmingham, England and started a family right away. On July 3, 2006, Amanda gave birth to fraternal twin girls, Millie Marcia Madge Biggs and Marcia Millie Madge Biggs.

From the day they were born, the girls had different color schemes, but similar facial features. Marcia took after her mother and had light brown hair and fair skin, while her sister Millie took after her father and had black hair and brown skin.

“We never worried about it; we just accepted it,” Michael says.

15 Isabella & Gabriella

Isabella and Gabriella became internet famous at the young age of 7-months-old due to their different skin tone. These two little girls are twin sisters, but they were born with extremely different skin complexions.

According to, their mother, Clementina Shipley, told Essence that Isabella is a very calm and laid back baby who will burst out into the cutest giggles whenever someone stares at her and who loves to be tickled, while her sister Gabriella, who is a big snuggle bug, has been on the go since she started crawling at 5-months-old and is just always smiling and full of energy.

14 Bobby & Riley

Bobby and Riley George were born 30 minutes apart and there was no denying that they were twins. Both boys had light skin, curly hair and brown eyes.

According to, as the boys got older though, their features started to change. At four years old, Bobby now had blue eyes, blonde hair and a light complexion, while his brother Riley had brown eyes, dark hair and darker skin like their father.

The boys were born to parents Abigail Tongue, who is Caucasian, and Richard George, who is of mixed race. Abigail gave birth to her boys in October 2011 at West Middlesex University Hospital in West London with the knowledge that there was a small possibility they would be born with different skin colors. When they were born though, they were identical, it wasn’t until they were four weeks old that their appearances began to change. Bobby’s features started to lighten, while his brother Riley’s features started to darken.

13 Lauren & Hayleigh

Mixed-race twins are a rare occurrence in any family. It happens in about one out of every 500 pregnancies. When it comes to the Durrant family, they are one of those families who had this rare occurrence, but what makes their story even more rare is that their girls were identical twins, not fraternal.

According to, Hayleigh and Lauren Durrant are identical twin sisters, who were born with different skin, hair and eyes colors. Lauren is light skinned, with blue eyes and red hair, just like her mother, while her sister Hayleigh is dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair like her father.

12 Miya & Leah

So, Lauren and Hayleigh Durrant are identical twin sisters born to a mixed-race couple over in Britain, Allison and Dean Durrant. They were born the spitting image of one another, but with three small differences; Hayleigh was dark skin, dark haired, and dark eyed like her father, while Lauren had light skin, blue eyes and red hair like her mother.

Now, this occurrence is already super rare, especially in identical twins, but what makes this family so special is that it not only happened once, but twice.

That’s right, according to, the Durrant family became pregnant again, this time with fraternal twins, a few years later and boy where they surprised when they learned that they were expecting another set of biracial babies.

“I didn’t think the same thing would happen again. I was blown away when I saw them together. I didn’t know until then that there was such a big difference between the two,” Dean said. “It was clear to see, but they were rushed away after they were born so we didn’t realize until we saw them together. We have a very special family.”

11 Tyrelle & Teyreece

Julia and Timothy Charles have been together since they were 12-years-old and they have been in love ever since the day they met. Both now in their 50s, they have seven children together: a boy in his 20s named Tristan, four girls, Salina who is in her 30s, Shellee who is in her 20s, and then Julia and Clareena who are both in their teens. Then there are the twins, Tyrelle and Tyreece.

These twins are special though. They were born six minutes apart but have completely different features. One is black with dark hair, while the other is light skin with blonde hair.

According to, Julia had this to say about the day the twins were born: “After they popped out, Tim just shouted at me, ‘We’ve got one of each,’ and I couldn’t believe it. Tyreece was so dark and Tyrelle was lily white.”

The twins are the youngest out of their group of kids, and they couldn’t look less alike, but that doesn’t stop them from being the best twin brothers ever. They dress alike, they play together, and they can’t spend a minute apart without the other. They may not look alike, but they defiantly have a twin bond.

10 Kian & Remee

Typically, when identical twins are born, it is hard to tell who is who without having something to tell them apart. When it comes to Kian and Remee though, this is not the case.

According to, these two girls look a lot alike and even share the same cheeky smile, but Kian was born with dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, while her sister was born with pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes.

Both mom Kylee Hodgson and dad Remi Horder have white mothers and black fathers, giving their children a higher chance of being biracial like themselves.

Kylee had a hard time believing when they were first born that they were twins. “I had expected that as they grew older that they may grow more similar and the difference between them would become less obvious, but if anything, their skin color is even more striking now,” she said.

Remee has remained with white-blond hair, but her skin has gotten even lighter the older she gets, Kian on the other hand has gotten even darker than she was when she was first born.

The girls could not be happier though and never question why they don’t look alike.

9 Triniti & Ghabriael

Mom Khristi Cunningham and father Charles Cunningham are the proud parents to two adorable twins, a boy and a girl, and they couldn’t be happier. The only problem is, they get a lot of looks and questions as to why their twins look so different.

According to, Triniti was born with ebony-color skin, while her brother Ghabrial, aka Gabe, was born with ivory-white skin, blue eyes and blond hair.

From what their mother Khristi says, they get a lot of stares from people, along with what she is sure of a lot of talk behind her back.

Even their pediatrician was surprised with how different they looked when they first went to go see her. As soon as she asked, ‘Are they identical?’ though, the family stopped bringing their twins to see her.

8 Leo & Hope

Mother Shirley Wales gave birth to her twins by C-section and was in complete awe when the midwife handed her babies over to her.

According to, Leo resembles his Grenadian mother, Shirley, with his dark skin, brown eye and thick dark hair, while Hope takes after her father, who is no longer with Shirley, with her light skin, blue eyes, and fair sparse hair.

Shirley said: “I knew I was having twins, and I knew one was a boy and one was a girl, but I couldn’t believe it when the midwife told me they had different skin tones after I’d given birth to them. Throughout the pregnancy I’d joked about the babies being black and white, I even said to my friends that if one was black and one was white, I’d call them Ebony and Ivory. When they were born though, I realized it would be to actually call them that.”

Right away Shirley texted her friends and family and told them the news, and within 24 hours, 100 people showed up to see for themselves.

7 Anaya & Myla

Anaya and Myla might have the same mother and been born two minutes apart, but they look completely different. People even often ask their mother if they are even related, with the thoughts that maybe she adopted one of them.

According to, Myla resembles their father with his dark skin, dark hair, and dark eyes, while her sister Anaya resembles their mother with her light-colored hair, light eyes, and light skin.

These two might have been born two minutes apart, but they are completely different in both looks and their personality. Myla is an active and curious child, while her sister Anaya is more quiet, reserved and pensive.

6 Kendall & Baylee

Kendall and Baylee are like no ordinary twins. These little girls may dress alike, but they look completely different, even more so than normal fraternal twins.

According to, typically, when a mix-raced couple has children, that child is born with a mix of both skin tones, not separate like these two. They are a one in 500 chance.

“It was a lovely feeing and a big shock,” their mother said.

“One thing is for sure, family and friends won’t ever struggle to tell them apart,” the girl’s father added.

Their looks aren’t the only thing that is different though. They also have different personalities. Kendall, who was born weighing 6lbs, 1 oz, is laid-back and loves to sleep the day away, while her sister Baylee, who weighed in at 6 lb, 5 oz, is louder and needier and always wants attention.

Here are 5 ways it can happen:

5 What To Call Twins With Different Skin Colors And How It Can Happen

The proper names for twins born with different skin colors is either mixed twins or biracial twins.

According to, mixed twins are actually just fraternal twins who are born in a multiracial family.

The scientific reasoning behind mixed fraternal twins is that a person’s skin color is dictated by their genes. With mixed twins, they are born from parents of different skin colors, they inherit different gene codes that influence their skin pigments and bam, there you go.

So basically, it’s the combination of the different inherited genes that plays the role if a mixed raced child will have light or dark skin.

4 How Likely Is It For A Mother To Give Birth To Biracial Twins?

There is a scientist by the name of James M. Wilson who is a geneticist from the US and a medical researcher over at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Wilson is known for his work on gene therapy and is actually regarded as one of the field’s most prominent researchers.

It is Mr. Wilson who has done the study on how rare biracial twins are and the chances of mix-raced families to have them. According to, Mr. Wilson said in a report that there is a one in 500 chance for mix-raced parents to give birth to twins with different skin colors.

3 Changes In The Womb

Earlier it was stated that the color of one’s skin is determined by the genes they inherit while in their mother’s wombs. When it comes to fraternal twins born from mix-raced parents, each twin can inherit different genes, causing them to have different skin colors.

Well, according to, identical twins can also be born with different skin colors. Dr. Claire Stevens, a researcher at the Department of Twin Research, explained that even if identical twins share the same exact genes, it is still not a guarantee that they will be born with the same color skin. According to Dr. Stevens, the differences in identical twins may be attributed to how the babies develop in the womb. It is called somatic mutation, a condition where sometimes the markers in one’s DNA can affect the degree in which the DNA is expressed.

2 The Environment Twins Develop In

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Another reason identical twins can be born with different skin colors is due to the environment they are exposed to while they are in their mother’s womb.

According to, if one twin has more exposer to the sun, either by always being up front when mom is sun bathing, out having a picnic, or any other activity where she is outside in the sunlight, while in their mother’s womb, or if they develop a condition where their skin pigment is affected, than the color of their skin will be affected, and they can be born with their skin lighter than their sibling they share a womb with.

1 Challenges Biracial or Mixed Twins Might Face

There are a many challenges biracial or mixed twins might face in life, even with the world being as open as they are now to mixed couples.

According to, one example that has been reported is that one of the twins, the one that doesn’t share the parents skin color, may feel left out or different. They may become picked on by other kids in school and will constantly be asked why they look so different then their other siblings and parents.

Another issue that can arise is that they may start to struggle with the feeling of having a hidden identity, something that society finds difficult to accept.

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The words “identical twins” may conjure images of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Fred and George Weasley, or even the little girls in The Shining (who are actually very normal-looking these days). You probably think of identical twins as looking literally the same as one another, but that’s not the case with adorable identical twins Amelia and Jasmine.

Libby Appleby is white, while her partner Tafadzwa Madzimbamuto is black, so it could be expected that their kids would have complexions somewhere in between theirs. Instead, they wound up having babies with totally different appearances — yet identical DNA. Ready to hear how unlikely this is? The chances are 1 in a million, according to Libby’s doctors. There are lotteries with better odds than that.

Having developed from the same zygote, the girls are monozygotic twins, but Amelia has brown eyes and dark skin while Jasmine has fair skin and blue eyes. And just look how cute they are:

There are other sets of twins with contrasting skin tones, but this is the first one reported in the United Kingdom, according to the Daily Mail. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, a pair of fraternal twins with differing skin colors was born in Manchester, England, but it’s Amelia and Jasmine’s identical DNA that make their case truly unique.

The funniest part of the story: In the time leading up to the twins’ births, Libby was told by doctors that her kids would look so similar, she would have to mark them “with ink” to keep track of which was which.

In this fascinating instance of how bewildering genetics can be, there’s one thing we can be sure of: the girls have been seriously adorable since day one. Sam Escobar Contributor Sam’s enthusiasm for makeup is only rivaled by their love of all things relating to cats.

Y’all, this business of picking baby names is hard. Settling on a name that your kid will be stuck with for the rest of their life comes with a lot of pressure — and when you find out you’re expecting twins and have to decide on two names that complement each other, things are twice as hard.

This mission becomes even more complicated when you’re having boy-girl twins.

More: These Vintage Baby Names Will Never Go Out of Style

We know you’ve already got plenty on your plate right now, which is why we’ve done our best to make the name-picking process easy for you. If you want to go matchy-matchy, we’ve picked some name pairs that begin with the same letter. But if you’re not the alliterative type, we’ve got plenty of other twin sets that just have a nice ring to them. Below are our favorite “two of a kind” picks for matching boy-girl twin names.

Image: Getty Images/Design: Becci Burkhart/SheKnows

Top boy-girl twin baby names

  1. Madison, Mason
  2. Taylor, Tyler
  3. Addison, Aiden
  4. Dillan, Delanie
  5. Drew, Dakota
  6. Emily, Ethan
  7. Emma, Evan
  8. Ella, Ethan
  9. Emma, Ethan
  10. Jayda, Jayden
  11. Jada, Jaden
  12. Lennox, Layla
  13. Matthew, Mazie
  14. Quincy, Quinn
  15. Aidan, Nadia
  16. Aiden, Ava
  17. Emma, William
  18. Madison, Matthew
  19. Anna, William
  20. Emily, Evan
  21. Emma, Jacob
  22. Emma, Noah
  23. Isabella, Isaiah
  24. Madison, Michael
  25. Addison, Andrew
  26. Chloe, Connor
  27. Emma, Jack
  28. Nicholas, Sophia
  29. Noah, Sophia
  30. Olivia, Owen
  31. Zachary, Zoe
  32. Zachary, Zoey
  33. Brian, Brianna
  34. Caleb, Chloe
  35. Ethan, Isabella
  36. Grace, John
  37. Isabella, Michael
  38. Jacob, Jillian
  39. Jada, Jayden
  40. James, Julia
  41. Landon, London
  42. Lily, Luke
  43. Olivia, William
  44. Samuel, Sophia
  45. Sophia, William
  46. Abigail, Alexander
  47. Abigail, Benjamin
  48. Alexander, Ava
  49. Andrea, Andrew
  50. Andrew, Emily
  51. Ava, John
  52. Ava, Noah
  53. Emily, Ryan
  54. Emma, James
  55. Hannah, Noah
  56. Adan, Dana
  57. Taylor, Aaron
  58. Preston, Peyton
  59. Mia, Eli
  60. Parker, Harper

More: This Printable Guide Is About to Solve All Your Baby-Naming Squabbles

Celebrity boy-girl twin names

Check out these unique and cool boy-girl twin names from some of our favorite celebrities — and even Cleopatra.

  • Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: Vivienne and Knox
  • Julia Roberts: Hazel and Phinnaeus
  • Marcia Gay Harden: Hudson and Julitta
  • Neil Patrick Harris: Gideon and Harper
  • Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony: Max and Emme
  • Holly Robinson-Peete: Ryan (daughter) and Rodney Jr.
  • Angela Bassett: Slater (son) and Bronwyn (daughter)
  • Cleopatra: Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene
  • Joan Lunden: Two sets of twins! Max and Kate and Kimberly and Jack
  • Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey: Moroccan and Monroe
  • Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer: Charlie and Poppy
  • Coldplay’s Will Champion: Juno and Rex

More tips for naming boy-girl twins

Many parents like naming boy-girl twins with names beginning with the same letter, like Faith and Finn or Mia and Max. If that’s you, check out our advanced baby name search to narrow down your list by searching for names by starting letter. Or maybe you just want to stick with a name theme; you could choose both traditional names or a specific origin, such as French names. Or go wild and give your twins totally unrelated names — it just might be the best way to help them stand out as individuals.

Originally published September 2011. Updated September 2017.

Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins are named Rumi and Sir. George and Amal Clooney called theirs Ella and Alexander. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, meanwhile, went with Knox Léon and Vivienne Marcheline, adopting a French theme for their twin babies. And those combinations all sound great, but where do you start if it’s you who’s expecting twins?

Here’s some baby name inspiration if you’ve got double the decisions to make:

Alliterative names

Twin girl names:

  • Alice and Arabella
  • Ella and Emilia
  • Poppy and Penelope
  • Isabelle and Ivy
  • Matilda and Molly

Twin boy names:

  • Oscar and Oliver
  • Joshua and James
  • Alfie and Arlo
  • Sebastian and Samuel
  • Noah and Nathaniel

Names with the same meaning

Twin girl names:

  • Imogen and Esme (meaning beloved)
  • Everly and Hero (meaning brave)
  • Astrid and Nancy (meaning divine)
  • Ava and Zoe (meaning life)
  • Sophia and Phoebe (meaning wisdom)

Twin boy names:

  • Arthur and Leo (meaning courageous)
  • Matthew and Theodore (meaning gift of God)
  • Philip and David (meaning beloved)
  • Alexander and Edmund (meaning protector)
  • Frederick and Milo (meaning peace)

Names with the same theme

Twin girl names:

  • Alexandra and Victoria (royal theme)
  • Violet and Rose (flower theme)
  • Agatha and Lottie (vintage theme)
  • Luna and Aurora (space theme)
  • Charlotte and Geneva (places theme)

Twin boy names:

  • Jasper and Finn (mythological theme)
  • Forrest and Bear (nature theme)
  • Benjamin and Elijah (biblical theme)
  • Archie and Max (comic book theme)
  • Chester and Barney (vintage theme)

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My twin boys are almost one year old. Marcus has skin worthy of a soap commercial, chubby cheeks and a giant gummy smile he uses to woo anyone within beaming distance. Callum has spots of eczema, a narrow face and a shy grin that rewards only those he’s comfortable with.

Callum is allergic to strawberries. Marcus is only allergic to waiting five minutes to eat. Their weights are distinct enough that Callum would have a hard time getting down to earth on a teeter-totter. Callum sat first. Marcus was the first crawler.

Our boys are different.

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And yet, even three months before they were born, the medical system told us they were likely identical – first neonatologists, then obstetricians, then a pathologist who sampled the placenta. (“Likely” is the key word, here, as only a DNA test is conclusive.) We accepted it, without question – when they were born, we were so worried they would be indistinguishable, we painted one’s toe with nail polish.

But we never had a problem telling them apart. If they were made up of the exact same genetic building blocks, how could they be that different?

I figured the doctors had got it wrong – after all, ultrasounds are imperfect, and even the placental test misses some 10 per cent of the time. And in general we discovered a broad lack of knowledge in the medical community about identical twins – many doctors are simply more focused on health, than arcane genetic questions.

So I asked for a genetic sampling kit from the University of Alberta, swabbed my boys’ cheeks, sent it off with a cheque for $180, and waited. Every year, 30 to 40 parents of multiples do the same – and that’s not counting the Canadians who use private genetic services, of which there are many. There are medical reasons for such tests: knowing whether a twin pair is identical can be an important consideration when one is diagnosed with cancer, for example, and the other wants to know the chances of encountering the same.

Most parents, however, are driven purely by curiosity, and a lack of understanding about how truly unique even genetically paired siblings can be. After all, the term “identical” implies an overwhelming likeness, and the popular literature on identical twins focuses on their uncanny similarities, down to pairs raised apart who choose the same names for their own children. And yet, most parents of identical siblings can see little but differences.

“They look like completely different kids to me,” says J.P. Jepp, the Calgary father of identical quadruplets. “It’s bizarre when people go to me, ‘How do you tell them apart?’ Well, how can’t you tell them apart?” J.P. and his wife Karen embrace the differences and actively avoided dwelling on the “identical” label. Their girls have freckles and birthmarks in different locations, not to mention dramatically different personalities.

“We have always tried to really see them as individuals – and we might have gone to the extreme,” says Karen. “We never, ever dress them the same.”

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For me, though, the questions nagged, and went beyond appearance: If Callum and Marcus were identical, why were they developing at different paces? Should we be concerned when one broke out in a rash, and not the other? Was there something wrong?

The answers, as far as science understands them, would shed light on some of the remarkable intricacies of the way we grow and develop.

I discovered that even those professionally obligated to find similarities between identical twins are confronted with how hard it can be. Martin Schoeller is a New York portrait photographer whose pictures illustrated a January National Geographic article on identical twins. He has photographed 120 such pairs, and several identical triplets, and intends to release his work in a book later this year – an assemblage of photos that will make clear the differences between such sets.

“You assume identical twins look exactly the same,” he said. “But there’s a lot of identical twins I photographed that look like two brothers or sisters that are not necessarily twins.

“Once you see them side by side in the same light and the same camera angle, you come to realize how different most twins look,” he said.

The differences aren’t just skin deep. The formation of life, from its very earliest hours, is fraught with all manner of avenues for things to slip up.

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Mostly, those slipups mean nothing. But between identical twins, they can manifest in more obvious ways. Pinched blood flow in the womb can leave one sibling permanently smaller and lighter. Female identical twins can have differences in which X chromosomes – one from each parent – are active. That’s the reason, among the Dionne quintuplets, some were colour blind and others were not. Even the pattern of folds in the brain can be different. And in rare cases, identical twins have different hair and eye colour, a result of incongruities in how pigment-forming cells migrate through the body during growth.

Then there are mirror twins, which typically comprise one left-handed child and one right-handed. Geneticists believe that an egg, within days of fertilization, assigns sides. If the egg splits to form identical twins, those sides become independent, and mirror twins result. Among the Jepp girls, for instance, three are right-handed, the other is a leftie.

Of course, our own boys have their share of similarities. Their eyes are an identical bright blue. When they crawl, they use the same horribly inefficient commando dragging technique. They first rolled within four hours of each other.

So when I got the results of the DNA test, which compares 14 or 15 segments of the genome, I wasn’t shocked. The test was unequivocal: “They were identical at each” of the parts they tested, said Fiona Bamforth, the twin expert who is chair of the University of Alberta department of laboratory medicine and pathology.

Which made it final. Marcus and Callum are identical.

In some ways, that makes their differences even more interesting. From the same genetic building blocks, they are each assembling something unique. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing insight into the propensity life for diversity. No matter the genetic ties, the natural order favours a kind of irrepressible individuality.

-A curious adult from California

September 16, 2005

What a great question! You have probably heard that your DNA contains the instructions for making you who you are. Things like your eye and hair color are controlled by your DNA.

This is why identical twins look so much alike — they share the same DNA. And yet, they aren’t exactly alike. They can be hard to tell apart but if you look closely, you see differences.

So what causes them to look slightly different if it isn’t differences in their DNA? Identical twins have physical differences because when it comes to the way you look, both nature and nurture matter.

You may have heard the phrase “nature vs. nurture” before, but what exactly does it mean? This phrase refers to the two things that make you who you are. Your genes (nature) are important, but they are not the whole story. Your environment (nurture) also plays a big role.

By environment I mean things like what you eat, how much you sleep, whether you get sick. Things that happen to you during your life. How can these things have such a big impact?

Think of it this way–when I bake an apple pie, it turns out a little different each time. The shapes of the apple pieces are never quite the same. Maybe the stove is a little hotter, or I add slightly more sugar. Maybe a distraction like the phone ringing keeps me from taking it out of the oven exactly when I planned.

I use the same set of instructions every time. But each pie is still unique because differences in the environment make it is impossible for me to follow the instructions in exactly the same way.

So identical twins are kind of like two pies made from the same recipe. They are more similar than pies made from different recipes, say apple and blueberry. But if you look closely, they are still not exactly the same. They will always have some physical differences due to differences in their environment.

What are some examples of these differences?

Some identical twins can have different heights and weights. This is because height and weight are controlled by what you eat as well your DNA.

Differences in diet can start earlier than you might imagine. When the twins are growing inside the uterus, there can be differences in how well they connect to the placenta. This can mean one twin starts getting more to eat even before they are born!

Another physical difference between identical twins is their fingerprints. The fingerprints of identical twins do look more similar than the fingerprints of non-twins. This is because your fingerprints are partially controlled by your genes.

But they are not exactly the same. They have differences that a fingerprint expert can use to tell them apart. This is because environmental differences like how the hand of the fetus touches the amniotic sac also affects fingerprints.

Recently scientists have found a new type of difference between identical twins. Everyone has marks in their DNA that help control which parts of your DNA get used where ( to learn more about these marks).

Scientists have shown that identical twins have very similar marks when they are born. But, as they age, the marks in their DNA become more and more different. So even though identical twins have the same DNA, they are using it in different ways.

Even if you aren’t an identical twin, you can still see the impact of the environment in your own face. Both the right and left side of your face were made using the same DNA. But I’ll bet they aren’t perfect mirror images of each other! For example, my left ear is a little lower than the other, and my nose is not perfectly straight. Everyone has small differences like these.

So how do we know when a something is controlled by DNA and when it is controlled by the environment?

Identical twins can help answer this type of question. For example, we know that identical twins can be different heights. This means height can’t be controlled by your genes alone, because identical twins have the same genes. So height must be part nature and part nurture. On the other hand, identical twins almost always have the same eye color. So eye color must be mostly nature.

Many things seem to be controlled by a little of both. This means no matter how similar two people’s DNA is, they will always be unique.

Newspapers recently went wild with a story about identical twin sisters with a difference: they weren’t identical. Like all identical twins, Amelia and Jasmine arose from a single fertilised egg so have identical DNA, but somehow look different from each other.

One child has dark skin, black hair and brown eyes while the other has fair skin, light-brown hair and blue eyes. How is this possible? Have the doctors or scientists got it wrong?

No one has got it wrong. They really are identical twins. While this is a rare event – the doctors were as surprised as anyone – genetic and epigenetic research tells us that it is possible. In fact, it is likely to be the result of common biological processes that are going on inside all of us all of the time – although, typically, with less visually striking effects.

Types of twin

Twins fall into two broad categories: identical and non-identical. Non-identical twins are the result of a mother releasing two eggs at once, both of which become fertilised by different sperm resulting in two separate zygotes which develop into two children.

Like most full siblings, non-identical twins share 50% of their DNA. Identical twins, however, result from a single fertilised egg (one zygote) separating into two parts during early cell division. It’s normal for a zygote to divide and it does this repeatedly during development to grow the many cells needed to make a full-term baby, whether that baby is a twin or not. But for singletons and non-identical twins these cells remain tightly packed together. If the cells separate early on in the process they can develop as two independent but twinned zygotes that share 100% of their DNA. Since DNA and the genes within it contain all the biological instructions for making us, this should result in two identical looking babies: identical twins.

Imperfectly perfect

We are taught in high school biology that when cells replicate their DNA and divide as we grow, they replicate our DNA perfectly. Actually, they do it almost, but not quite, perfectly. With each round of DNA replication and cell division our cells are accumulating a small number of changes in their DNA sequences. So even within our own bodies, our cells do not contain identical DNA. This is known as somatic variation.

Some of these changes give rise to common familiar features such as moles, some have been linked to diseases such as cancer, but the majority have no obvious effect. The same process occurs as identical zygotes grow and divide and will result in numerous subtle genetic differences between identical twins most of which we barely notice.

Consequently, identical twins do not actually share 100% of their DNA although they share very close to 100%. And when the differences are in the genes responsible for features such as hair colour, eye colour or skin colour, twins will have obvious and dramatically different looks.

The role of epigenetics

In addition to this, genes can be switched on and off in different cells. In fact, they have to be. If all of our genes were switched on all of the time in all of our cells then we would not be able to grow different tissue types and organs from a single set of biological instructions.

One of the main processes switching genes on and off is an epigenetic process known as DNA methylation. By controlling which genes are on or off in any given cell, we are able to grow kidneys, heart, skin, etc and control how these cells behave and what they look like.

DNA methylation marks can be inherited across generations, but, equally, they can be altered by relatively short-term stimuli such as exercise or nutrition. More importantly, there is evidence that the genes involved in controlling eye, skin and hair colour are subject to this epigenetic control.

So whether they had a different experience in the womb – such as one twin receiving more nutrients due to a better connection to the placenta – or whether there was some chance epigenetic reprogramming, it seems likely that epigenetics will have a role in explaining the difference in the appearances of Amelia and Jasmine.

Although a few eyebrows may be raised when Amelia and Jasmine are described as identical twins, biologically they are as identical as any other pair of identical twins. The differences between them are just more visually striking.

These adorable baby girls are Kalani and Jarani Dean.

Despite their different appearances – Kalani has light skin and blue eyes, and Jarani has dark skin and brown eyes – they are actually twins.

It’s a biological rarity: These twin baby girls have different skin colors

— CNN (@CNN) January 24, 2017

The girls’ parents are Whitney Meyer and Tomas Dean, from Quincy, Illinois.

Meyer has been posting pictures of the unique pair since they were born last April.

The couple obviously couldn’t believe their luck.

“At first, when they were born, I wanted to believe it but, it’s so rare, I didn’t think it’d happen to my twins,” Meyer told KHQA. “But, sure enough, they’re biracial twins.”

Meyer is white and Tomas is black, which explains part of the phenomenon.

The twins are dizygotic, which is just the scientific term for fraternal twins.

So, each baby girl started out as a separate fertilized egg (monozygotic, or identical twins, start off from the same egg and then divide).

In a fraternal twin situation, each baby inherits a different combination of genes from mom and dad so, when the parents are of different races, it is possible the inherited genes for skin color can differ.

Still, the striking occurrence is rare.

Geneticist Jim Wilson told the BBC, for mixed-race couples in Britain who are expecting twins, there is about a one in 500 chance their babies will be born with different colored skins.

Are “Biracial Twins” a New Twin Type?

I hardly believed they were twins! Several years ago, one of my developmental psychology students told me that she had a fraternal twin sister who looked nothing like her, and it turned out that she was correct. I invited the student and her sister to visit my lab one afternoon to participate in a research study. When I first saw them, I discovered that their different skin colors and facial features were remarkable. It was then that I learned that the twins had been born to a Hispanic father and Caucasian mother. My student, who resembled her father, admitted that people often treat them very differently, not really believing that they were related. I became quite interested in the different life experiences of such extraordinary twins—conceived in ordinary ways.

The new term for twins conceived by couples from different backgrounds is “biracial.” What happens is that each twin inherits different combination of genes related to skin tone, hair color and facial features. No one knows how often they occur, but it seems that their frequency is higher than in the past. That is probably because of the increased frequency with which mixed background couples are having families. In fact, in 2010, 15 percent of new United States marriages included individuals from different races or ethnicities; that is double the rate of 6.7 percent found in 1980 (Wang, 2012). In this article I plan to review some new cases, what this means for twins and families, and provide suggestions for future research with these unusual twin pairs.

A “biracial” twin pair was born to twenty-five-year-old Whitney Meyer, who is Caucasian, and her partner, twenty-three-year-old Tomas Dean, who is African-American (Minutaglio, 2017). They live in Quincy, Illinois and are now the parents of young fraternal female twins, named Kalani and Jarani. Kalani has a light complexion and blue eyes like her mother; in contrast, Jarani has darker skin like her father. It turns out that Jarani was born with Mongolian spots (simple pigment variations that vary in color from blue to slate gray); this feature is not uncommon among infants of color. However, these spots usually disappear by the time children are two years of age (What to Expect Foundation, 2017). Their older son who is Caucasian seems unaware of the physical differences between his two younger sisters. Whitney, the twins’ mother, asserted that her twins show the world why racism should not exist.

British twins, Daniel and James Kelly, have a Caucasian mother and a Jamaican father. Daniel is blonde and light-skinned, while James is dark-haired and dark-skinned. It may be that their father carries genes linked to both dark and light skin colors as is characteristic of mixed populations in the Caribbean. Apparently, the twins’ inheritance of different genetic factors from their father explain their different appearance. Interestingly, the lighter-skinned Daniel was subjected to more race-based discrimination than James because his fellow students viewed him as black, despite the fact that he saw himself as white (Moorhead, 2011).

Another captivating case concerns two boys who are clearly fraternal twins—the larger twin is light-skinned, whereas his smaller twin brother has darker skin. The slightly unusual angle to this story is that both rearing parents are Caucasian. The twins’ biological mother is Caucasian, although her former partner was African-American. However, their mother had been dating her present partner for several weeks when she learned that she was pregnant.

According to their mother, “No one believes that they are twins. No one on my side of the family has blue eyes. It makes me feel like a terrible person when we get funny looks and I have to tell the same story to try to make it look not so bad. understand and are the only ones who should really have to know, but people give the dirtiest looks when they see two white people with twins who have different complexions.” It is hard to pinpoint the roots of these reactions which may include wondering how such a circumstance arises, and/or feeling that parent and child ethnicities should “match” even when children are adopted.

A formal analysis or case study of the behavioral consequences for fraternal co-twins who appear to come from different ethnic backgrounds has never been undertaken. As I noted above, twins like these seem to be more common because of rising marriage rates between individuals from different backgrounds. The special value of these studies is that the family histories of the twins are matched, enabling study of the responses to the twins’ different looks and how they may affect the twins’ self-esteem and personality traits. Helpful information for families raising such twins would also be likely to result from such research.